Saturday, October 14, 2006

Jay Power: On The Side Of The Angels

Look, don’t forget we’re fighting the good fight. We’re on the side of the angels.

That was how AFL-CIO lobbyist Jay Power would end his presentations at strategy meetings. He was the AFL's chief lobbyist on health and safety issues, as well as other topics. After 26 years at the AFL-CIO, Jay died last week at age 60. He had colon cancer.

The AFL-CIO's blog describes Jay's contributions:
Lots of Capitol Hill lobbyists are merely hired guns. Not Jay Power. He believed in the union movement with his heart and soul. No one had a greater passion for protecting workers’ interests. For a full generation, he was the lobbyist for every worker who needs safety and health protections in America’s workplaces, and for every construction worker who depends on Davis-Bacon guarantees to receive a decent wage and for every underpaid worker who needs an increase in the minimum wage.

The factory worker in Wisconsin who gets notice and compensation when her plant closes, the federal workers in Alabama who finally enjoys the basic right to get involved in politics and express their opinion, the energy industry worker in Washington State compensated for exposure to toxic substances—all are better off because of Jay Power.
I had the pleasure of working with Jay for almost 20 years, two of which just down the hall at the AFL-CIO. As Senator Edward Kennedy said when learning of Jay's death,
Everyone who knew Jay knew he was an Irish storyteller at heart. They say that continual cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom. Jay had both in abundance, and he’ll be deeply missed.

And it's that Irish storyteller that I'll remember best. You never came out of meeting with Jay without a smile on your face, a better understanding of the strategy you had to follow, and a great story (that generally couldn't be repeated in polite company) about some current or former politician or labor leader.

The AFL-CIO's piece notes that Jay was able to walk his daughter Bevin down the aisle at her wedding just days before he died. But there was another dream that Jay often talked about -- it had to do with the "other woman" in his life (aside from Bevin and his wife, Joyce). Jay would often talk wistfully of his dream to see Nancy Pelosi sworn in as the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. He didn't quite live to see that happen, but I'm sure he'll be watching and smiling as we all make it happen next month.